SEO vs. PPC: Which One is Better for Your Business?

Published: 30 December 2023

Updated: 29 January 2024

SEO vs. PPC: Which One is Better for Your Business?

Alright, let’s get to the point. SEO or PPC? Which one is the real deal for your business? You might have seen the stats – about 49% of small businesses focus heavily on SEO. On the flip side, some of your competitors might be investing substantially in PPC, hoping for quick wins. It can be quite confusing, right? Is SEO a marathon worth running, or is PPC that quick sprint to the finish line? Which one won’t eat up all your cash and still get the job done? And let’s be real – which one will give you fewer headaches?

If you’re nodding along, thinking, “That’s exactly what I want to know!” – you’re in the right place. We’re about to explore the SEO vs. PPC debate and help you find the right solution.

Table of Contents:

  1. The Difference between SEO and PPC
  2. What is SEO, and How Does It Support Your Business?
  3. What is PPC, and How Does It Support Your Business?
  4. SEO vs. PPC: Which is Better for Your Business?
  5. Another Option: Use Both SEO and PPC Strategies
  6. SEO vs. PPC Frequently Asked Questions
  7. Which Path Will You Take?

The Difference between SEO and PPC

Let’s talk about the difference between SEO and PPC. These are like two different paths to boosting your online presence. SEO is a slow-and-steady approach – it’s all about optimizing your website so that it shows up in search results naturally. On the other hand, PPC is more like paying for instant attention. You bid on ads, and when someone clicks, you pay. SEO nearly always converts at a higher rate than PPC, with some exceptions like higher education. The gap is particularly large in specific industries. The five industries with the largest conversion rate are financial services, real estate, legal services, and manufacturing & distribution.

Average SEO and PPC conversion rate

Source: firstpagesage.com

One of the reasons behind this phenomenon is that organic search results, which are the outcome of SEO, are often perceived as more trustworthy than paid search (PPC). Users tend to trust organic search results more because they believe those results are there due to their relevance to the search query rather than being influenced by advertising spend.

This insightful comparison shows how SEO and PPC offer distinct advantages and conversion rate dynamics. Now, let’s delve deeper into each of these strategies in the upcoming sections.

What is SEO, and How Does It Support Your Business?

So, you’ve probably heard the buzz about SEO, but what’s the deal with it, and how can it actually help your business? SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it’s all about making your business more visible online. It’s helping your website appear when people search for things online. In this section, we’ll explain SEO basics and show you how it can make a big difference for your business.

Important SEO Components

  • On-page SEO: It’s all about adorning your website with the right elements to catch the search engine’s eye. From your content to the meta descriptions, every little detail counts.
  • Off-page SEO: This is akin to your reputation in the community. How do others perceive you? Do they vouch for you? In the digital field, this includes the number and quality of other sites linking back to yours.
  • Technical SEO: Imagine inviting guests to your house. You’d want it tidy and welcoming. Technical SEO ensures your site is “welcoming” for search engines, making it easy to crawl and index.

…And the list goes on. Each component is complex, and when they all fit perfectly, you get the larger picture of a successful SEO strategy. You can find the full list of SEO components in the table below.

ComponentsDescription
On-page SEOThis involves all the on-website adjustments you can make to ensure your site ranks. It includes things like keyword optimization, meta descriptions, content quality, and more.
Off-page SEOActions taken outside of your own website that affect rankings. This usually points to backlinks.
Technical SEOConcerned with website structure and backend details, ensuring sites are fast, secure, and mobile-friendly.
Local SEOOptimization for local business visibility. Listings, reviews, and local keywords fall into this.
Local SEOOptimization for local business visibility. Listings, reviews, and local keywords fall into this.
Content creationRegular, high-quality content drives traffic, supports keyword strategies and establishes authority.
Link-buildingBuilding high-quality, reputable backlinks to your site to boost its credibility in search engines.
SEO analytics and reportingUsing tools to measure success, analyze traffic, and refine strategy.

SEO Pros

What are the advantages that come with SEO? Let’s find out.

  1. Cheaper in the long run. Think of SEO like a gym membership. There’s an upfront cost (joining fee, buying gear), but once you’re set up and consistent, you’re looking at great results without continually pouring in a lot of extra cash. So, after the initial investment in SEO, the traffic you get from those top spots on Google? It doesn’t cost you anything. So you have a small online store, and you spend some time making sure your site is top-notch and your blog is churning out cool stuff. Over time, people searching for the latest trends find you without you paying every time they click.
  2. Target different funnel stages. Here’s the cool part about SEO: it’s talking to customers at all stages. Whether they’re just window shopping or ready to buy, your content guides them. For example, you have blog posts for the curious, product pages for the interested, and case studies for those ready to get on board.
  3. Build brand authority. Consistently popping up in organic search results? Over time, users trust you have the good stuff. If you ever notice how some names like Adobe for design keep coming up when you search for something in their field, that’s what brand authority looks like.
  4. Evergreen traffic. Once you rank for a keyword, you can keep getting traffic without paying for each visitor. Ever stumble upon a blog post from, say, 2018 that perfectly answered your questions? That’s the power of evergreen content in SEO. The article keeps bringing in visitors years after it was written.
  5. Increased credibility. People trust Google. So, if Google shows your site as a top result, people are more likely to trust you too. For example, if you’re looking for a guide on “starting a small business,” and you see a result from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), you instantly feel like you’re in good hands.

SEO Cons

    1. Changing algorithms. Here’s the tricky bit. Just when you think you have Google all figured out, bam! They change things up. So, once you’ve nailed a top spot on Google for “best eCommerce store”, Google decides to change how they rank things, and suddenly you’re lagging behind your competitors.
    2. Requires regular optimization. With SEO, you have to stay on your toes. It’s a bit like tech – there’s always a new update, a newer model, or some hot new feature. A top-ranking article from 2019 might not hold its weight in 2023 without some updates.

Google core updates

  1. Long-term success (or not). SEO isn’t your quick-win strategy. It takes time, but it’s worth the wait if you do everything right! For example, only a few visitors drop by when you start a blog. But if you keep at it and stay consistent for a year or so, you could be the go-to hub for the information in your field.
  2. It’s unpredictable. There’s no way to know when you’ll rank. You might hit the jackpot in a few months, or it could take years. For example, you can pour resources into ranking for “best CRM software,” but a big player like Salesforce dominates the scene, making your climb to the top slower and tougher.
  3. Intense competition. Everyone wants the top spot, and with more businesses investing in SEO, the competition is fierce. With so many players trying to rank for the same keywords, securing a top spot becomes challenging.Like all strategies, SEO comes with its unique challenges and rewards. But while the cons sound intimidating, the pros? They can be game-changers. If you aim for sustained, long-term growth and are willing to play the long game, investing time and resources in SEO can set you up for some sweet success.

What is PPC, and How Does It Support Your Business?

PPC works in a pretty straightforward way: you create ads, pick out keywords or phrases that relate to your business, and bid to have your ads show up in search results and on various online platforms. So, when someone looks up something that matches your chosen keywords, your ad gets a chance to shine right there in the search results. The cool thing about PPC is that you only cough up cash when someone clicks on your ad, not just for users looking at it.

How PPC works

When it comes to running PPC campaigns, big players like Google Ads and Meta Ads (that used to be Facebook) are the go-to choices. They come packed with tools to help you craft, handle, and fine-tune your ads. Google Ads, for example, lets you put your ads on Google’s search result pages and across a bunch of partner websites.

But here’s the deal – while PPC can show quick results and get you noticed immediately, it’s not a magical one-size-fits-all solution. It takes some planning, constant management, and optimization to make it work just right for your specific business goals and budget.

 

Important PPC Components

No, we’re about to peel back the curtain on the essential elements that power PPC campaigns. Ever wondered how these components can supercharge your business? Let’s take a closer look:

    • Landing page optimization. Your landing page is the welcoming front door to your online shop. It’s where potential customers arrive after clicking your ad. Now, what if that digital welcome mat was well-optimized? Whether it’s making a purchase, signing up, or making an inquiry, a great landing page increases the chances of turning visitors into happy customers. How can you ensure they swiftly find what they’re after?
    • Keyword research. Keywords are the foundation of PPC campaigns. They’re the words and phrases that users type into search engines when they’re looking for products or information. But here’s the trick: effective keyword research is like having a treasure map. You’re trying to uncover the words your potential customers are most likely to use in their searches. Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner can be your trusty compass, helping you discover keywords that are not only relevant but also have high search volumes and less competition. Now, imagine this: you’re running a travel agency specializing in adventure tours. Your keyword research might reveal keywords like “best hiking trips,” “adventure travel,” and “extreme sports vacations.” These keywords become the cornerstone of your PPC campaigns, ensuring your ads hit the bullseye and connect with the adventure-seeking souls out there. How can you use these keywords to create campaigns that resonate with your target audience and drive real results?
    • Ad creation. Creating compelling, attention-grabbing ads is crucial in the world of PPC. These ads need to encapsulate your product or service essence and value proposition in a limited character count. The choice of words, visuals, and overall design can make or break your campaign. It’s not just about what you say, but HOW you say it that matters.
    • Bid management. Bid management involves setting the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click on your ad. Smart bid strategies ensure you get the best value for your budget. You can adjust your bids based on factors like keyword performance, time of day, or even the device your audience is using.
    • Campaign settings. The configuration of your PPC campaign settings can significantly impact its success. Parameters like location targeting, ad scheduling, and budget allocation fall under this component. By defining where and when your ads appear, you can tailor your campaign to reach the most relevant audience while staying within your budget.
    • Ad extensions. Ad extensions are like bonus features that enhance your ads. They provide extra information or additional ways for users to interact with your business. For instance, you can include site links that direct users to specific pages on your website, callout extensions highlighting special offers, or structured snippets that showcase the variety of services you offer. These extensions make your ad more informative and engaging, increasing the chances of clicks and conversions

Ad extensions

  • Conversion tracking. The ultimate measure of PPC success is conversions. Conversion tracking allows you to monitor and analyze user actions after they click on your ad. Whether it’s completing a purchase, filling out a contact form, or making a phone call, tracking these actions provides invaluable insights. It enables you to refine your campaigns, improve ROI, and make data-driven decisions to optimize your advertising efforts.

So, here’s the million-dollar question: how can you make these PPC components work their magic for your business? Think about your customers’ journey, from that first click to landing on your optimized page. Are your keywords aligning with their search intent and aspirations? We understand that the digital advertising realm can be overwhelming. That’s why we’re here, not just to offer expertise but also to provide guidance and support. Running successful PPC campaigns, we’ve tackled many challenges, including yours. Whether you’re starting from scratch or seeking to fine-tune your existing campaigns, we’re your trusted partner. Just contact us to get in touch and discuss your PPC strategy.

PPC Pros

Now, let’s delve into the advantages of PPC in more detail:

    • Quick results. Unlike SEO, which can take months to see substantial traffic, PPC provides almost immediate results. Once you set up your campaign, your ads can light up search results and draw clicks within hours. It’s the perfect choice when you’re craving an instant traffic boost, more sales, or inquiries. Can you imagine the possibilities of quick wins?
    • High visibility. PPC ads appear prominently at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). They’re usually marked as “Ad” or “Sponsored.” This prime placement ensures your business is among the first options users see when searching for relevant keywords.

Organic and paid search results

  • Target your audience. With PPC, you can zero in on a highly specific audience. Want to reach users by location, demographics, interests, or even their choice of device? It’s all on the menu. This means your precious ad dollars are invested in the people most likely to become loyal customers.
  • A/B testing magic. A/B testing (or split testing) is a fantastic feature in PPC advertising. It allows you to create variations of your ad or landing page and test them to see which one performs better. This data-driven approach lets you continually refine your campaigns for optimal results.
  • High-intent clicks. When people click on PPC ads, they’re often in the decision-making phase of their buying journey. They’re actively seeking a product or service, which means they’re more inclined to take action. Whether that’s making a purchase, requesting a quote, or filling out a contact form – the intent is strong. This high level of interest can lead to faster conversions.
  • Data, insights, and more data. PPC platforms provide a wealth of data and analytics. You can track your campaigns’ performance, measure your return on investment (ROI), and fine-tune your strategy based on the insights. For instance, through PPC data, you might discover that your ads get the most love and conversions in the evening. You can adjust your bidding strategy to shine bright during those golden hours. It’s all about optimizing your campaign’s performance.

These advantages make PPC compelling for businesses looking to quickly increase online visibility, connect with highly targeted audiences, and harness data-driven insights for ongoing improvement.

PPC Cons

Every strategy has its roadblocks, and PPC is no exception.

  • Expensive and rising costs. PPC sometimes feels like a high-stakes auction, especially for competitive keywords. Costs can add up, and the bidding war can drive prices higher. For example, if you run a business in a highly competitive field, bidding on keywords can be expensive, and as more competitors enter the race, the costs per click can surge.
  • There’s a learning curve. Just like mastering a new skill, getting the hang of PPC platforms takes time and practice. Setting up campaigns, selecting the right keywords, and optimizing your ads can be a bit perplexing when you’re new to the game.
  • Ad blindness. Users have become adept at tuning out or ignoring ads. This phenomenon, known as “ad blindness,” can lead to a lower click-through rate and reduced overall effectiveness of your PPC campaigns. For example, a user may subconsciously skip over PPC ads on a search engine results page because they’ve learned to focus on organic results or the content they came to find.
  • Click fraud. PPC campaigns are susceptible to click fraud, where individuals or automated bots click on your ads maliciously. This can drain your budget and skew your campaign performance data.
  • Ongoing management. Successful PPC campaigns require continuous monitoring and optimization. Regularly adjusting keywords, ad copy, and bids to improve performance can be time-consuming and may require a dedicated team or third-party assistance. You can run a small eCommerce business, and managing your PPC campaigns can eat up a significant portion of your time, taking you away from other crucial tasks like product development or customer service.

While these challenges exist, many businesses find that the rewards of PPC, such as instant visibility and precise targeting, outweigh the drawbacks.

SEO vs. PPC: Which is Better for Your Business?

Now it’s decision time. You have the lowdown on both SEO and PPC – the good, the not-so-good, and everything in between. But here’s the question: which one is the perfect match for your unique business? Let’s pause here for a minute.

When is Best to Use SEO?

SEO has its time and place, and it’s crucial to know when to bring it to the forefront of your digital marketing strategy:

  • You’re in it for long-term success: SEO is a patient game. If you’re willing to invest time and effort over an extended period, it can be your best friend.
  • You’re focused on building brand authority: SEO is about more than just keywords; it’s a tool for establishing yourself as an expert in your industry. If you aim to be the go-to source for your audience, then SEO is your path to becoming an industry authority.
  • You have a limited budget: If you’re working with limited financial resources, SEO offers a cost-effective way to compete for online visibility. While it may not yield immediate results, it won’t drain your budget.
  • Long-term returns are your goal: SEO consistently delivers organic traffic without the ongoing costs associated with PPC. If you’re looking for a sustained return on investment, SEO is the answer.
  • You want to cater to various stages of the customer journey: SEO is the tool for creating content that reaches potential customers at different stages of their purchasing process. Whether they’re just browsing, comparing options, or ready to make a purchase, SEO allows you to tailor your content to their specific needs.

When is Best to Use PPC?

PPC advertising is like the sprinter in the digital marketing race, delivering quick results. Here’s when it’s the star of the show:

  • You want quick results: If you’re in a hurry to get your message out there and see instant clicks and conversions, PPC is your speedy companion. Unlike SEO, which takes time to climb the ranks, PPC gets you to the top of the search results almost immediately.
  • You have a novel or unique product: If your product or service is groundbreaking or one-of-a-kind, PPC can quickly introduce it to the world.
  • You’re running a time-sensitive offer: Be it a holiday sale, a limited-time discount, or a special promotion, if time is of the essence, PPC can create a sense of urgency and drive immediate action.
  • You want to direct your audience to a specific page: Whether it’s a product page, a special offer, or a sign-up form, PPC excels at guiding your audience to a particular destination.
  • You have a broad target audience: If your ideal customers come from various demographics or interests, PPC’s precise targeting options can help you reach a wide range of potential buyers.

SEO or PPC: Important Questions to Ask

Before we move on to the next section, let us focus your attention on the questions. The choice between SEO and PPC depends on various factors, but it all starts with asking the right questions:

  • What’s your budget? Are you ready to make a long-term investment for the gradual growth of SEO, or do you have the financial resources to opt for the quicker results of PPC? Your budget determines the tools and tactics at your disposal.
  • What’s your timeline? Is there a countdown ticking away for an upcoming product launch, or can you afford to play the waiting game with SEO? Knowing your timeline helps you choose between immediate or gradual results.
  • What’s your competition like? In a market with fierce competition, PPC can be your secret weapon for immediate visibility. Do you know what keywords your competitors are targeting? Knowing your competition helps you strategize effectively.
  • What are your business goals? Your goals define the purpose of your digital marketing efforts. Are you looking to build brand authority over time with SEO, or are you more interested in capturing high-intent clicks right away with PPC? Clear goals will guide your choice.
  • Are you ready for the learning curve? PPC may be challenging, but are you willing to take the time to master the steps? Do you have the expertise, or are you willing to seek professional PPC services?

Another Option: Use Both SEO and PPC Strategies

As you stand at the crossroads and think about what to choose, consider the following option: you don’t have to choose between SEO and PPC. In fact, using them in tandem can create a potent marketing mix that propels your business to new heights. Here’s how you can harness the power of both:

  • Use PPC to promote your content: Are you creating epic blog posts or informative videos? Use PPC to give them an initial boost. Your content can instantly reach a wider audience; once it gains traction, SEO can pick up the baton and keep it going.
  • Take advantage of retargeting: PPC is your retargeting ace. If someone visited your site but didn’t convert, retarget them with PPC ads. Remind them of what they missed, and gently nudge them back into your sales funnel.
  • Monitor keywords your competitors are bidding on: PPC tools can unveil the keywords your competitors are targeting. This information is a goldmine for your SEO strategy. Identify high-performing keywords and weave them into your content.
  • Move expensive PPC keywords to SEO: If you find that certain keywords are burning a hole in your PPC budget, transition them to your SEO strategy. In the end, it’s cost-effective in the long run.
  • Combine both SEO and PPC to appear at the top of SERPs: Want to dominate the search engine results page? Use PPC to secure the top spot with a paid ad and simultaneously aim for the organic top ranking with SEO. Double exposure, double impact.
  • Cover geographic areas with weaker SEO coverage through PPC: If your SEO efforts haven’t conquered specific geographic areas, use PPC to fill the gaps. Target those regions and expand your reach.
  • A/B testing of ad copy and landing pages can be fed into your organic listings and landing pages: PPC allows you to run quick A/B tests on ad copy and landing pages. Discover what resonates with your audience and use these insights to enhance your organic content.
  • Test your keyword strategy in PPC before committing to long-term SEO strategies: Think of PPC as your testing ground. Experiment with different keywords to see what generates the best results. Once you’ve cracked the code, incorporate those keywords into your long-term SEO strategy.

The beauty of combining SEO and PPC is that they can complement each other seamlessly. It’s not a choice between one or the other; it’s about utilizing both to play off each other’s strengths. The result? A dynamic marketing strategy that’s versatile, adaptable, and geared for success. So, why settle for one when you can have the best of both worlds? Your digital marketing journey can be a whole lot more exciting.

SEO vs. PPC Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s address some of the most common queries to help you make an informed decision:

  1. How does paid search compare to search engine optimization? Paid search, or PPC, offers immediate results and precise audience targeting, while SEO is a long-term strategy focused on organic visibility. PPC involves ongoing costs per click, while SEO offers a more stable and often higher return on investment over time.
  2. How does SEO affect PPC? SEO indirectly benefits PPC by enhancing your website’s overall quality and relevance. Higher organic rankings can lead to improved quality scores in PPC, which can lower costs and boost ad positions.
  3. Is PPC better than SEO? PPC excels in providing quick results and specific audience targeting, while SEO offers long-term sustainability and cost-effectiveness. The choice depends on your business goals, budget, and the nature of your products or services.
  4. What is the key difference between SEO and PPC? The main difference is the payment model. In SEO, you invest in optimizing your website to rank organically without paying per click. In PPC, you pay every time a user clicks on your ad.
  5. What would you suggest for an eCommerce site: SEO or PPC? For eCommerce, a combination of both is often the best approach. Use PPC to drive immediate sales, particularly for specific product promotions, and utilize SEO for long-term growth. SEO can enhance the overall visibility of your online store.
  6. Is SEO cheaper than PPC? SEO is often considered more cost-effective in the long run. While PPC involves ongoing costs per click, SEO costs are typically more fixed and can deliver consistent traffic without the need for continuous investment. However, cost-effectiveness depends on your specific goals, industry, and timeline.

Which Path Will You Take?

SEO or PPC? The best choice for your business boils down to your budget, specific business goals, and the time you can invest. Your decision should mesh with your unique needs, whether you’re after the quick boost of PPC or the long-haul gains of SEO.

But here’s the deal: you don’t have to tackle this journey solo. A trusted PPC agency like VIDEN knows how to create standout ads, conduct thorough tests, and ensure your campaigns perform their best. Book a 15-minute consultation with our experts, and we’ll help you define your strategy.

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